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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message October 29, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thank you to the many people who came for our prayer service last night, in hopes that God would send His protection and upon the innocent people in the war-torn areas of the Middle East, the Holy Land, and Ukraine. Lord have mercy on them!

As we are rounding into the month of November, please pay special attention to the Liturgical Calendar, for there are many Feasts commemorated in that month – literally from the first day to the last; with several in-between. Celebrating weekday services is a special blessing in our Orthodox tradition and I invite you to avail yourselves of these opportunities for Grace!

Also, please keep in your prayers our shipment of liturgical furnishings that should be leaving the Athenian Port of Piraeus this next week. Our construction schedule is still on track to get us into the new sanctuary by Christmas. Let’s pray that everything coming from Greece will make it across the sea and land, arriving safely at our doorstep.

The iconostasis, iconostasis icons, altar table, bishop’s throne, pulpit, chandeliers, sacrament table, narthex furnishings and lamps will all be the finishing touches that will complete the transformation of our sacred space. As unbelievable as it sounds, we are almost there! Years of prayers, goals, plans, and dreams are materializing right in front of us. I thank you for your prayerful dedication to our Savior, and for the peace and joy, which help define our community. What St. Anna’s has accomplished in a very short amount of time is testament to your faith, your love for one another, and your devotion to the One, Triune God. Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit!

And as a repeated reminder, we are excited to host our Family Vacation Bible School in November. Children, grades K-5 and invited to come with their parents and siblings to learn about the immediately aforementioned Holy Trinity. This is something new we are trying, so please bring your families and enjoy a wonderful half day of fun and learning. See the attached flyer for more information.  

With Blessings and Gratitude,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

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Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message October 22, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I trust and pray you are all well. Congratulations to the community of St. Anna for a parish assembly meeting last Sunday. The two short motions both passed unanimously. We will move forward with the selling of the duplex home that Marios Poulos donated to the St. Anna parish (subject to the blessing of Metropolitan Isaiah) and the proceeds from the sale of the house will be used for the completion of our construction efforts. We will be forever grateful for the many contributors and benefactors of our parish.

Please be aware that we will be celebrating the divine services this Thursday, October 26th for St. Demetrios the Great Martyr and Myhr-Streamer. Orthros will begin at 8:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy at 9:00 am. Blessings to all who celebrate on that day, including His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, formally the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. 

Lastly, for families, please plan ahead for something new and exciting. We will be having a one-day Vacation Bible School on Saturday, November 18th from 10 am to 3:00 pm. You may recall that VBS had to be scrapped this past summer due to heightened construction activity. In our desire to postpone, not cancel, we have revamped the program for families. Activities, lessons and discussions will be prepared for all ages, including moms and dads, yiayias and papous! Seriously, this is going to be so much fun! VBS, Yay!

Oh, and Utah just beat USC tonight for the fourth straight year. Yes, that is a spiritual experience. 

Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message October 15, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Each year around this time, as the leaves are changing, the Utes are winning and my Dodgers are losing, I enjoy the blessing of announcing that our ministries are now officially firing on all cylinders. Sunday School has been going for a month, and both JOY and GOYA will be active by next week. Adult Religious Education classes are also beginning; allowing the Faithful to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of their spiritual lives. 

And very specifically, I call your attention to our Orthodox Inquirer’s Class that begins this Wednesday evening at 7:00 pm. If you, yourself want to become more enriched in the foundational nuances of Orthodoxy, please join us. But if you have a friend, co-worker, neighbor, family member or friend who is thirsty for Christ in their lives, by all means, be proactive and responsive to  our apostolic calling and invite them to learn about Christ’s Holy Church. There is literally no other Christian confession that can honestly claim an unblemished attachment to the Early Church. Be bold. Be brave. Be the person who brings someone to church!

Please again be aware that tomorrow is our Special General Assembly Meeting that has been called to discuss some very important matters, especially as they pertain to our construction efforts and future plans. Don’t miss out. Come share your voice and listen to the presentations. The business of our parish is the business of each of us. 

Please be aware that we will not be holding an evening Bible Study this fall. When I covered for the Morning Bible Study a couple weeks ago for John Kaloudis, I discovered that the participants are largely the same. We have three opportunities for adult spiritual enrichment, so I decided to put my energies elsewhere as we are still highly engaged in construction, and will be for quite some time, still. 

I also need to let you know that Brandee’s discussion class will not take place this week. She is out of town, so the Hopko class will begin on October 25th. 

Our JOY Ministry (youth grades 1-5) begins this Thursday evening at 7:00 pm. Last year was our best year ever for JOY. So creative, so enthusiastic, so well-attended. Let’s keep up the momentum with our little ones. Please keep your kids involved by participating in JOY!

I pray that each and every one of you are enjoying the blessings of the Fall season. To me, changing leaves have never represented dormancy or stillness. Quite the opposite, actually. Seeing red and yellow streaking across the mountain range is a reminder that this, this is the time of year when activities build up, ministries flow, people are here, and Christ is among us. See you tomorrow. As the days in our present worship space are earnestly approaching their end, let us appreciate every moment in the space that has been our spiritual home for three years. I am already feeling nostalgic about our “atrium church.” And we haven’t even moved out yet!

With Much Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message September 3, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I trust and pray that you have all enjoyed a blessed summer. Having been gone the last two Sundays, I can say that our summer ended nicely and that I tremendously miss my St. Anna Family. Not that I needed a reminder, but being away a couple weeks gave me pause to truly appreciate our loving and dynamic community. I extend a special note of gratitude to Fr. Elias and to Dn. John for their loving ministry to our parish – most especially in my absence. But now we are all back, things are returning to normal, and here we go – with the excitement of a new school year upon us. 

As I have expressed numerous times throughout the years, this is my absolute favorite time of year. Everything is taking shape and coming to life once again. Youth ministries, adult education, Sunday School and everything else is right around the corner. In fact, I can update the information in the Bulletin right here and now, and announce that Sunday School will begin September 17th with the Blessing of the New School Year and Sanctification of our new space. Classes will begin in our five, new classrooms on Sunday, September 24th. To be sure, this is later than usual, but I believe the wait will be well worth it. 

With this time of year, we also find ourselves at the beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year, which began on September first. The First major feast of the New Year is a celebration that directly involves our Matron Saint Anna. 

Therefore, in addition to the celebration of the Annunciation, there are three major feasts in the Church honoring Mary, the Theotokos. The first of these is the feast of her nativity which is kept on the eighth of September.

The record of the birth of Mary is not found in the Bible. The traditional account of the event is taken from the apocryphal writings which are not part of the New Testament scriptures. The traditional teaching which is celebrated in the hymns and verses of the festal liturgy is that Joachim and Anna were a pious Jewish couple who were among the small and faithful remnant—“the poor and the needy”—who were awaiting the promised messiah. The couple was old and childless. They prayed earnestly to the Lord for a child, since among the Jews barrenness was a sign of God’s disfavor. In answer to their prayers, and as the reward of their unwavering fidelity to God, the elderly couple was blessed with the child who was destined, because of her own personal goodness and holiness, to become the Mother of the Messiah-Christ.

Your nativity, O Virgin, has proclaimed joy to the whole universe. The Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, has shone from you, O Theotokos. By annulling the curse he bestowed a blessing. By destroying death he has granted us eternal life.

Troparion

By your nativity, O most pure virgin, Joachim and Anna are freed from barrenness; Adam and Eve from the corruption of death. And we, your people, freed from the guilt of sin, celebrate and sing to you: The barren woman gives birth to the Theotokos, the Nourisher of our Life.

Kontakion

The fact that there is no Biblical verification of the facts of Mary’s birth is incidental to the meaning of the feast. Even if the actual background of the event as celebrated in the Church is questionable from an historical point of view, the divine meaning of it “for us men and for our salvation” is obvious. There had to be one born of human flesh and blood who would be spiritually capable of being the Mother of Christ, and she herself had to be born into the world of persons who were spiritually capable of being her parents.

The feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, therefore, is a glorification of Mary’s birth, of Mary herself and of her righteous parents. It is a celebration as well of the very first preparation of the salvation of the world. For the “Vessel of Light,” the “Book of the Word of Life,” the “Door to the Orient,” the “Throne of Wisdom” is being prepared on earth by God Himself in the birth of the holy girl-child Mary.

The verses of the feast are filled with titles for Mary such as those in the quotations above. They are inspired by the message of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. The specific Biblical readings of the feast give indications of this.

The Gospel reading of Matins is the one read at all feasts of the Theotokos, the famous Magnificat from Saint Luke in which Mary says: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden, for behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Lk 1.47).

The epistle reading of the Divine Liturgy is the famous passage about the coming of the Son of God in “the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man” (Phil 2.5–11) and the gospel reading is that which is always read for feasts of the Theotokos—the woman in the crowd glorifies the Mother of Jesus, and the Lord himself responds that the same blessedness which his mother receives is for all “who hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk 11.27–28).

Thus, on the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, as on all liturgical celebrations of Christ’s Mother, we proclaim and celebrate that through God’s graciousness to mankind every Christian receives what the Theotokos receives, the “great mercy” which is given to human persons because of Christ’s birth from the Virgin.

So once again, I look forward to praying with you tomorrow morning and to all of the exciting things that are in store for us in the coming months.

With Much Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 27, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I’d like to call your attention to an article that recently ran in the Sandy City Journal. I invite you to read it and become keenly aware of the impact our “Blue Bin” has had on our local community, and our parish. Please let this piece stand as an inspiration and a reminder to all of us, how important it is keeping that bin full and bringing food items to church each time we enter our building. The nutritional needs of our local community are not diminishing, but rather increasing. May we never be aloof or indifferent to the sufferings just outside of our doors. And by the way, thank you, THANK YOU, for your generosity and sustained participation in our food support ministry. I am grateful that St. Anna’s is gaining the reputation of a solid, civic partner.

https://www.sandyjournal.com/2023/08/11/446167/local-church-helps-sustain-meals-for-diamond-ridge-and-entrada-schools

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 13, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,


For the past couple weeks, we have enjoyed lovely Paraklesis services out on our south patio. It has become a lovely tradition at St. Anna’s to lift up the Mother of God in these sacred days of the Dormition Fast on the grounds of the church. And as we’ve been sharing for the past few weeks, we will celebrate the Feast of the Dormition on Tuesday morning outside in the same area. Orthros will begin at 8:00 am followed by the Divine Liturgy at 9:00 am. We’ll find the shady spots out in the garden area so as not to interrupt construction efforts in any way.

The feast of the Dormition or Falling-asleep of the Theotokos is celebrated on the fifteenth of August, preceded by the aforementioned two-week fast. This feast, which is also sometimes called the Assumption, commemorates the death, resurrection and glorification of Christ’s mother. It proclaims that Mary has been “assumed” by God into the heavenly kingdom of Christ in the fullness of her spiritual and bodily existence. (Great Vespers will be celebrated at the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church in Price, Utah on Monday, August 14th at 6:00 pm).

As with the nativity of the Virgin and the feast of her entrance to the temple, there are no biblical or historical sources for this feast. The Tradition of the Church is that Mary died as all people die, not “voluntarily” as her Son, but by the necessity of her mortal human nature which is indivisibly bound up with the corruption of this world.

The Orthodox Church teaches that Mary is without personal sins. In the Gospel of the feast, however, in the liturgical services and in the Dormition icon, the Church proclaims as well that Mary truly needed to be saved by Christ as all human persons are saved from the trials, sufferings and death of this world; and that having truly died, she was raised up by her Son as the Mother of Life and participates already in the eternal life of paradise which is prepared and promised to all who “hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk11.27–28)

In giving birth, you preserved your virginity. In falling asleep you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos. You were translated to life, O Mother of Life, and by your prayers, you deliver our souls from death.

Troparion

Neither the tomb, nor death, could hold the Theotokos, who is constant in prayer and our firm hope in her intercessions. For being the Mother of Life, she was translated to life, by the One who dwelt in her virginal womb.

Kontakion

The services of the feast repeat the main theme, that the Mother of Life has “passed over into the heavenly joy, into the divine gladness and unending delight” of the Kingdom of her Son (Vesperal hymn). The Old Testament readings, as well as the gospel readings for the Vigil and the Divine Liturgy, are exactly the same as those for the feast of the Virgin’s nativity and her entrance into the Temple. Thus, at the Vigil we again hear Mary say: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1.47). At the Divine Liturgy we hear the letter to the Philippians where Saint Paul speaks of the self-emptying of Christ who condescends to human servitude and ignoble death in order to be “highly exalted by God his Father” (Phil 2.5–11). And once again we hear in the Gospel that Mary’s blessedness belongs to all who “hear the word of God and keep it” (Lk 11.27–28).

Thus, the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos is the celebration of the fact that all men are “highly exalted” in the blessedness of the victorious Christ, and that this high exaltation has already been accomplished in Mary the Theotokos. The feast of the Dormition is the sign, the guarantee, and the celebration that Mary’s fate is, the destiny of all those of “low estate” whose souls magnify the Lord, whose spirits rejoice in God the Saviour, whose lives are totally dedicated to hearing and keeping the Word of God which is given to men in Mary’s child, the Saviour and Redeemer of the world.

Finally, it must be stressed that, in all of the feasts of the Virgin Mother of God in the Church, the Orthodox Christians celebrate facts of their own lives in Christ and the Holy Spirit. What happens to Mary happens to all who imitate her holy life of humility, obedience, and love. With her all people will be “blessed” to be “more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim” if they follow her example. All will have Christ born in them by the Holy Spirit. All will become temples of the living God. All will share in the eternal life of His Kingdom who live the life that Mary lived.In this sense everything that is praised and glorified in Mary is a sign of what is offered to all persons in the life of the Church. It is for this reason that Mary, with the divine child Jesus within her, is called in the Orthodox Tradition the Image of the Church. For the assembly of the saved is those in whom Christ dwells. (OCA)

With Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas

Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message August 6, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Good Evening.

Tomorrow is the Great Feast of the Transfiguration on Christ. 

Please enjoy this Discourse on the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ of Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica

For an explanation of the present Feast and understanding of its truth, it is necessary for us to turn to the very start of today’s reading from the Gospel: “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up onto a high mountain by themselves” (Mt.17:1).

First of all we must ask, from whence does the Evangelist Matthew begin to reckon with six days? From what sort of day is it? What does the preceding turn of speech indicate, where the Savior, in teaching His disciples, said to them: “For the Son of Man shall come with his angels in the glory of His Father,” and further: “Amen I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death, until they have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Mt.16:27-28)? That is to say, it is the Light of His own forthcoming Transfiguration which He terms the Glory of His Father and of His Kingdom.

The Evangelist Luke points this out and reveals this more clearly saying: “Now it came to pass about eight days after these words, that He took Peter and John and James, and went up the mountain to pray. And as He prayed, His countenance was altered, and His raiment became a radiant white” (Luke 9:28-29). But how can the two be reconciled, when one of them speaks definitively about the interval of time as being eight days between the sayings and the manifestation, whereas the other (says): “after six days?”

There were eight on the mountain, but only six were visible. Three, Peter, James and John, had come up with Jesus, and they saw Moses and Elias standing there and conversing with Him, so altogether there were six of them. However, the Father and the Holy Spirit were invisibly with the Lord: the Father, with His Voice testifying that this was His Beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit shining forth with Him in the radiant cloud. Thus, the six are actually eight, and there is no contradiction regarding the eight. Similarly, there is no contradiction with the Evangelists when one says “after six days,” and the other says “eight days after these words.”

But these twofold sayings as it were present is a certain format set in mystery, and together with it that of those actually present upon the Mount. It stands to reason, and everyone rationally studying in accordance with Scripture knows that the Evangelists are in agreement one with another. Luke spoke of eight days without contradicting Matthew, who declared “after six days.” There is not another day added on to represent the day on which these sayings were uttered, nor is the day on which the Lord was transfigured added on (which a rational person might reasonably imagine to be added to the days of Matthew).

The Evangelist Luke does not say “after eight days” (like the Evangelist Matthew says “after six days”), but rather “it came to pass eight days after these words.” But where the Evangelists seem to contradict one another, they actually point out to us something great and mysterious. In actual fact, why did the one say “after six days,” but the other, in ignoring the seventh day, have in mind the eighth day? It is because the great vision of the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is the mystery of the Eighth Day, i.e., of the future age, coming to be revealed after the passing away of the world created in six days.

About the power of the Divine Spirit, through Whom the Kingdom of God is to be revealed, the Lord predicted: “There are some standing here who shall not taste death, until they have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Mt.16:28). Everywhere and in every way the King will be present, and everywhere will be His Kingdom, since the advent of His Kingdom does not signify the passing over from one place to another, but rather the revelation of its power of the Divine Spirit. That is why it is said: “come in power.” And this power is not manifest to simply ordinary people, but to those standing with the Lord, that is to say, those who have affirmed their faith in Him like Peter, James and John, and especially those who are free of our natural abasement. Therefore, and precisely because of this, God manifests Himself upon the Mount, on the one hand coming down from His heights, and on the other, raising us up from the depths of abasement, since the Transcendent One takes on mortal nature. Certainly, such a manifest appearance by far transcends the utmost limits of the mind’s grasp, as effectualized by the power of the Divine Spirit.

Thus, the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is not something that comes to be and then vanishes, nor is it subject to the sensory faculties, although it was contemplated by corporeal eyes for a short while upon an inconsequential mountaintop. But the initiates of the Mystery, (the disciples) of the Lord at this time passed beyond mere flesh into spirit through a transformation of their senses, effectualized within them by the Spirit, and in such a way that they beheld what, and to what extent, the Divine Spirit had wrought blessedness in them to behold the Ineffable Light.

Those not grasping this point have conjectured that the chosen from among the Apostles beheld the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord by a sensual and creaturely faculty, and through this they attempt to reduce to a creaturely level (i.e., as something “created”) not only this Light, the Kingdom and the Glory of God, but also the Power of the Divine Spirit, through Whom it is meet for Divine Mysteries to be revealed. In all likelihood, such persons have not heeded the words of the Apostle Paul: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him. But to us God has revealed them through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor.2:9-10).

So, with the onset of the Eighth Day, the Lord, taking Peter, James and John, went up on the Mount to pray. He always prayed alone, withdrawing from everyone, even from the Apostles themselves, as for example when with five loaves and two fish He fed the five thousand men, besides women and children (Mt.14:19-23). Or, taking with Him those who excelled others, as at the approach of His Saving Passion, when He said to the other disciples: “Sit here while I go over there and pray” (Mt.26:36). Then He took with Him Peter, James and John. But in our instance right here and now, having taken only these same three, the Lord led them up onto a high mountain by themselves and was transfigured before them, that is to say, before their very eyes.

“What does it mean to say: He was transfigured?” asks the Golden-Mouthed Theologian (Chrysostom). He answers this by saying: “It revealed something of His Divinity to them, as much and insofar as they were able to apprehend it, and it showed the indwelling of God within Him.” The Evangelist Luke says: “And as He prayed, His countenance was altered” (Luke 9:29); and from the Evangelist Matthew we read: “And His face shone as the sun” (Mt.17:2). But the Evangelist said this, not in the context that this Light be thought of as subsistent for the senses (let us put aside the blindness of mind of those who can conceive of nothing higher than what is known through the senses). Rather, it is to show that Christ God, for those living and contemplating by the Spirit, is the same as the sun is for those living in the flesh and contemplating by the senses. Therefore, some other Light for the knowing the Divinity is not necessary for those who are enriched by Divine gifts.

That same Inscrutable Light shone and was mysteriously manifest to the Apostles and the foremost of the Prophets at that moment, when (the Lord) was praying. This shows that what brought forth this blessed sight was prayer, and that the radiance occured and was manifest by uniting the mind with God, and that it is granted to all who, with constant exercise in efforts of virtue and prayer, strive with their mind towards God. True beauty, essentially, can be contemplated only with a purified mind. To gaze upon its luminance assumes a sort of participation in it, as though some bright ray etches itself upon the face.

Even the face of Moses was illumined by his association with God. Do you not know that Moses was transfigured when he went up the mountain, and there beheld the Glory of God? But he (Moses) did not effect this, but rather he underwent a transfiguration. However, our Lord Jesus Christ possessed that Light Himself. In this regard, actually, He did not need prayer for His flesh to radiate with the Divine Light; it was but to show from whence that Light descends upon the saints of God, and how to contemplate it. For it is written that even the saints “will shine forth like the sun” (Mt.13:43), which is to say, entirely permeated by Divine Light as they gaze upon Christ, divinely and inexpressibly shining forth His Radiance, issuing from His Divine Nature. On Mount Tabor it was manifest also in His Flesh, by reason of the Hypostatic Union (i.e., the union of the two perfect natures, divine and human, within the divine Person [Hypostasis] of Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity). The Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon defined this Hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures, divine and human, as “without mingling, without change, without division, without separation.”

We believe that at the Transfiguration He manifested not some other sort of light, but only that which was concealed beneath His fleshly exterior. This Light was the Light of the Divine Nature, and as such, it was Uncreated and Divine. So also, in the teachings of the Fathers, Jesus Christ was transfigured on the Mount, not taking upon Himself something new nor being changed into something new, nor something which formerly He did not possess. Rather, it was to show His disciples that which He already was, opening their eyes and bringing them from blindness to sight. For do you not see that eyes that can perceive natural things would be blind to this Light?

Thus, this Light is not a light of the senses, and those contemplating it do not simply see with sensual eyes, but rather they are changed by the power of the Divine Spirit. They were transformed, and only in this way did they see the transformation taking place amidst the very assumption of our perishability, with the deification through union with the Word of God in place of this.

So also she who miraculously conceived and gave birth recognized that the One born of her is God Incarnate. So it was also for Simeon, who only received this Infant into his arms, and the aged Anna, coming out [from the Jerusalem Temple] for the Meeting, since the Divine Power illumined, as through a glass windowpane, giving light for those having pure eyes of heart.

And why did the Lord, before the beginning of the Transfiguration, choose the foremost of the Apostles and lead them up onto the Mount with Him? Certainly, it was to show them something great and mysterious. What is particularly great or mysterious in showing a sensory light, which not only the foremost, but all the other Apostles already abundantly possessed? Why would they need a transforming of their eyes by the power of the Holy Spirit for a contemplation of this Light, if it were merely sensory and created? How could the Glory and the Kingdom of the Father and the Holy Spirit project forth in some sort of sensory light? Indeed, in what sort of Glory and Kingdom would Christ the Lord come at the end of the ages, when there would not be necessary anything in the air, nor in expanse, nor anything similar, but when, in the words of the Apostle, “God will be all in all” (1 Cor.15: 28)? That is to say, will He alter everything for all? If so, then it follows that light is included.

Hence it is clear that the Light of Tabor was a Divine Light. And the Evangelist John, inspired by Divine Revelation, says clearly that the future eternal and enduring city “has no need of the sun or moon to shine upon it. For the Glory of God lights it up, and the Lamb will be its lamp” (Rev 21:23). Is it not clear, that he points out here that this [Lamb] is Jesus, Who is divinely transfigured now upon Tabor, and the flesh of Whom shines, is the lamp manifesting the Glory of divinity for those ascending the mountain with Him?

John the Theologian also says about the inhabitants of this city: “they will not need light from lamps, nor the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shed light upon them, and night shall be no more” (Rev 22:5). But how, we might ask, is there this other light, in which “there is no change, nor shadow of alteration” (Jas 1:17)? What light is there that is constant and unsetting, unless it be the Light of God? Moreover, could Moses and Elias (and particularly the former, who clearly was present only in spirit, and not in flesh [Elias having ascended bodily to Heaven on the fiery chariot]) be shining with any sort of sensory light, and be seen and known? Especially since it was written of them: “they appeared in glory, and spoke of his death, which he was about to fulfill at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30-31). And how otherwise could the Apostles recognize those whom they had never seen before, unless through the mysterious power of the Divine Light, opening their mental eyes?

But let us not tire our attention with the furthermost interpretations of the words of the Gospel. We shall believe thus, as those same ones have taught us, who themselves were enlightened by the Lord Himself, insofar as they alone know this well: the Mysteries of God, in the words of a prophet, are known to God alone and His perpetual proximity. Let us, considering the Mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord in accord with their teaching, strive to be illumined by this Light ourselves and encourage in ourselves love and striving towards the Unfading Glory and Beauty, purifying our spiritual eyes of worldly thoughts and refraining from perishable and quickly passing delights and beauty which darken the garb of the soul and lead to the fire of Gehenna and everlasting darkness. Let us be freed from these by the illumination and knowledge of the incorporeal and ever-existing Light of our Savior transfigured on Tabor, in His Glory, and of His Father from all eternity, and His Life-Creating Spirit, Whom are One Radiance, One Godhead, and Glory, and Kingdom, and Power now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message July 16, 2023

Modern Israeli City of Haifa, and the view from Mount Horeb, just below “St. Elias’ Cave” 
Photo Was Taken while descending the mountain on our St. Anna Pilgrimage
 to the Holy Land in 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

During the Month of July, especially toward the end, we have so many opportunities for spiritual blessings. Paramount among them, of course, is the Feast of St. Anna. Our Parish Name Day and the commemoration of her Falling Asleep in the Lord. Also, a great blessing to us is the Feast of St. Elias (in Greek), known as St. Elijah in the Old Testament on July 20th. The Holy Prophet Elijah is one of the greatest of the prophets. He was born in Tishba of Gilead into the Levite tribe 900 years before the Incarnation of the Word of God. And of course, it is the Name Day of our own, Fr. Elias Koucos, and our sister parish of Prophet Elias in Holladay, UT.

Saint Epiphanios of Cyprus gives the following account about the birth of the Prophet Elijah: “When Elijah was born, his father Sobach saw in a vision angels of God around him. They swaddled him with fire and fed him with flames.” The name Elijah (the Lord’s strength) given to the infant defined his whole life. From the years of his youth he dedicated himself to the One God, settled in the wilderness and spent his whole life in strict fasting, meditation and prayer. Called to prophetic service, which put him in conflict with the Israelite king Ahab, the prophet became a fiery zealot of true faith and piety.

During this time the Israelite nation had fallen away from the faith of their Fathers, they abandoned the One God and worshipped pagan idols, the worship of which was introduced by the impious king Jereboam. Jezebel, the wife of king Ahab, was devoted to idol worship. She persuaded her husband to build a temple to the pagan god Baal, which led many Israelites away from the worship of the true God. Beholding the ruin of his nation, the Prophet Elijah began to denounce King Ahab for impiety, and exhorted him to repent and turn to the God of Israel. The king would not listen to him. The Prophet Elijah then declared to him, that as punishment there would be neither rain nor dew upon the ground, and the drought would cease only by his prayer. Indeed, the word of Elijah was a torch (Eccles. 48: 1). The heavens were closed for three and a half years, and there was drought and famine throughout all the land.

During this time of tribulation, the Lord sent him to a cave beyond the Jordan. There he was miraculously fed by ravens. When the stream Horath dried up, the Lord sent the Prophet Elijah to Sarephta to a poor widow, a Sidonian Gentile who suffered together with her children, awaiting death by starvation. At the request of the prophet, she prepared him a bread with the last measure of flour and the remainder of the oil. Through the prayer of the Prophet Elijah, flour and oil were not depleted in the home of the widow for the duration of the famine. By the power of his prayer the prophet also performed another miracle: he raised the dead son of the widow.

After the end of three years of drought the Merciful Lord sent the prophet to appear before King Ahab, and promised to send rain upon the earth. The Prophet Elijah told the king to order all of Israel to gather upon Mount Carmel, and also the priests of Baal. When the nation had gathered, the Prophet Elijah proposed that two sacrificial altars be built: one for the priests of Baal, and the other for the Prophet Elijah who served the True God.

The Prophet Elijah told them to call on their gods to consume the sacrificial animals with fire, and he would call on his. Whichever was first to send fire on the sacrifice would be acknowledged as the true God. The prophets of Baal called out to their idol from morning till evening, but the heavens were silent. Towards evening the holy Prophet Elijah built his sacrificial altar from twelve stones, the number of the tribes of Israel. He placed the sacrifice upon the wood, gave orders to dig a ditch around the altar and commanded that the sacrifice and the wood be soaked with water. When the ditch had filled with water, the prophet turned to God in prayer. Through the prayer of the prophet fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, the wood, and even the water. The people fell down to the ground, crying out: “Truly, the Lord is God!” Then the Prophet Elijah had all the pagan-priests of Baal put to death, and he began to pray for rain. Through his prayer the heavens opened and an abundant rain fell, soaking the parched earth.

King Ahab acknowledged his error and repented of his sins, but his wife Jezebel threatened to kill the prophet of God. The Prophet Elijah fled into the Kingdom of Judea and, grieving over his failure to eradicate idol worship, he asked God to let him die. An angel of the Lord came before him, strengthened him with food and commanded him to go upon a long journey. The Prophet Elijah traveled for forty days and nights and, having arrived at Mount Horeb, he settled in a cave.

The Lord told him that the next day Elijah would stand in His presence. There was a strong wind that crushed the rocks of the mountain, then an earthquake, and a fire, but the Lord was not in them. The Lord was in “a gentle breeze” (3 Kings 19: 12). He revealed to the prophet, that He would preserve seven thousand faithful servants who had not worshipped Baal.

Later, the Lord commanded Elijah to anoint Elisha into prophetic service. Because of his fiery zeal for the Glory of God the Prophet Elijah was taken up alive into Heaven in a fiery chariot. The Prophet Elisha received Elijah’s mantle, and a double portion of his prophetic spirit.

According to the Tradition of Holy Church, the Prophet Elijah will be the Forerunner of the Dread Second Coming of Christ. He will proclaim the truth of Christ, urge all to repentance, and will be slain by the Antichrist. This will be a sign of the end of the world.

The life of the holy Prophet Elijah is recorded in the Old Testament books (3 Kings; 4 Kings; Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 48: 1-15; 1 Maccabees 2: 58). At the time of the Transfiguration, the Prophet Elijah conversed with the Savior upon Mount Tabor (Mt. 17: 3; Mark 9: 4; Luke. 9: 30).

Orthodox Christians of all times, and in all places, have venerated the Prophet Elijah for centuries. 

In iconography the Prophet Elijah is depicted ascending to Heaven in a fiery chariot, surrounded with flames, and harnessed to four winged horses. We pray to him for deliverance from drought, and to ask for seasonable weather.

With Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message July 9, 2023

That with an iron stylus and lead, They were engraved in the rock forever.

Job 19:24

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Last week, a man was caught on video carving his and his fiancé’s initials into a wall of the Roman Coliseum. And let’s be totally honest, you who saw this in the news: we all breathed a collective sigh of relief, finding out that he is not American. He’s from England, BTW.

Wow, talk about the ugly tourist – marking up an ancient treasure for his immature and immediate enjoyment. The Italian government did not take such an offense lightly, and they plan on prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law. In his letter of apology, he claimed that he didn’t know The Coliseum was of a historical importance and was embarrassed, after the fact, to learn of its significance. Not a very strong defense, if you ask me. 

“Ivan+Hayley 23” is now there forever. And in a couple thousand years, perhaps it will also be of a historical significance.

I have wonderful news for the good people of the St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church who, like young Ivan, have the desire to write love notes on sacred structures. Except in our case, we won’t call the police, and I’ll even supply the markers!

Starting this Sunday, following the Divine Liturgy, head out to the north parking lot of the church building and sign one of the buttress beams that are going up in the new Sanctuary. These angled beams will support the weight of the building after we remove the front and center post that would be blocking the front of the solea. They will be attached to a new beam in the center of the ceiling and stretch across the nave, connecting to the existing posts in what will be our side aisles. 

Please feel free to write your names, scroll a little prayer, offer your grateful message to our loving God. There is plenty of room on these structures for everyone to share their sentiments. Even though these beams will be covered and finished as part of the church interior, you will always be able to look up and know that your heart-felt message to God is part of the permanent structure of our worship space. 

We will make the beams available to be signed right up until they are ready to be installed; in about ten days or so. Please don’t be disappointed if you are unavailable this weekend. You’ll have ample opportunity to take part in this joyful (and legal) act of graffiti. 

As a reminder, please be aware that we will be hosting our Annual Parish Name Day Picnic a few days early this year, coinciding with the archepastoral visit of His Grace Bishop Constantine of Sassima, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Metropolis of Denver. We will celebrate Saturday Evening Great Vespers on July 22nd at 5:00 pm followed by a fantastic pulled pork BBQ picnic, hosted by Elaine Peterson and her Name Day Picnic Committee. The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy will take place the following day, Sunday the 23rd.

We will STILL celebrate our Name Day Great Vespers on Monday, July 24th at 5:00 pm WITHOUT a picnic and we will STILL celebrate the Dormition of St. Anna Orthros and Divine Liturgy on Tuesday, July 25th. 

Once again, please take the opportunity to write your prayerful message or just sign your name on a structural beam. Make your mark on the forever-history of our church. However, please know that anyone who writes “Ivan+Hayley 23” will be reported to the Sandy Police Department.

With Much Love in XC,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter

Categories
Pastoral Letters

Pastoral Message June 25, 2023

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I’d like to announce that a new worship space has been created at St. Anna’s. Well, sort of.

Our monthly Paraklesis to the Holy Ancestor of Christ, our Matron St. Anna was held yesterday morning. Anyone who has been around the church the past week has seen that there’s been a sharp escalation in construction activity. While Phase II of construction is complete, minus finishing details, the entire east wall of the building has been demolished and removed. And the north wall of the church (or the south wall of the Sunday School Hallway) has already been erected. I could not believe the progress that was made in five short days. 

But when we went into the church to pray the Paraklesis, a couple things were also at play. Once again, major dust was kicked up into the sanctuary due to all of the dismantled walls. And the electrician was drilling through an exterior wall to install new fire protection strobes. This young man had a job to do, and I did not want to send him away while we prayed. This project is “on the clock” with some very specific deadlines at this point. So we were blessed with an opportunity to be creative. 

Forever in our parish history, we will record the first prayer service in new space was in the Bookstore! Even though there were only four of us in attendance, it was so special and intimately powerful. The small group sang out, chanting the service. The sounds of construction equipment, saws, blaring Latin music (always upbeat and fun), and the flurry of activity outside the windows, accompanied us in our prayer. They were not distractions, but background accompaniment in celebration of the moment. We honored our Matron Saint for her unique ministry in history, her unique relationship with the Christ, and her unique role in our lives. All in a setting that was actively engaged in furthering her name and influence within our broader community. 

It was just such a blessing to have a clean, enclosed and dignified space in the midst of chaos. 

Changes are happening at a rapid pace at this point, but our mission of prayer and service will continue through the dust, debris, noise and confusion. 

Please be aware that beginning tomorrow, post-Liturgy fellowship will take place out on our new, north patio – just steps out of the building. You will be surprised at how perfectly everything has been set up for the purpose of us being together. Never underestimate our ability to wire and plum a commercial coffee maker to the exterior of a building. It can be done!

Please be aware of a couple more milestones on the near horizon:

Next week, the footings for the new steel in sanctuary will be prepared. We are basically engineering a fortified cage in the middle of the building to accommodate the church design. Included in this new structure, will be a ceiling beam that will travers the length of the new worship space from east to west. In the next couple of Sundays, we will make it available to be signed by the parishioners of St. Anna’s before it is raised up. Your personal prayer, message or simple signature will part of our permanent structure.

I initially wanted to have the beam brought into the church for a grand and prayerful spectacle. I got my way with bells and crosses…but I suppose a huge beam was a bit too large of an ask.

So, we’ll go outside, Sharpies in hand, and enjoy a moment in the sun. More details to follow when we have the day secured. 

Lastly, and though this is a month away, I want to announce from now that on the occasion of our Parish Feast Day, His Grace Bishop Constantine of Sassima will be with us on the evening of Saturday, July 22nd, and for the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy on Sunday, July 23rd. Our Annual Name Day Picnic will take place on that Saturday in celebration of His Grace’s visit. Again, more details to follow, but please make plans to be with us the weekend before the Feast of St. Anna. 

With Much Love in Christ,

Fr. Anthony Savas
Protopresbyter